An Endless Cast O’ Characters… Like Terry Murphy

August09/ 2017

An Endless Cast o’ Characters

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I’m not sure what the definition of “a character” is.

Maybe it’s like pornography? You can’t define it but you know one when you see it.

Maybe it’s like “a purple cow”? You’d rather see one than be one. Except I would not mind “being a character” that someone knew.  Maybe I am?

He certainly was a character would be a cool tombstone inscription.

I often rate the places I’ve been… the things I’ve done… the people I’ve known by “the characters” that I encountered while being there doing whatever I was doing.

There was a twenty year period of my life – age 20-40 – that was rather peripatetic (DUH!).  I lived in seven diverse parts of this country over those two decades. I would not recommend that degree of instability.

Otherwise I doubt my life in totality has been all that different than yours. Whether it has or not is not our purpose today.

I’m going to use the definition of “character” as someone whose name you remember and that you randomly wonder “whatever happened to _______?” Maybe positively and fondly. Maybe NOT so positively or fondly.

“Characters” come in all shapes and sizes.   Their role in your life’s drama may be fleeting, but they leave their mark.


Terry MurphyLast week Terry Murphy sat down in his home in a North Dallas suburb and wrote his auto-obituary. He either mailed it or emailed it to The Dallas Morning News. Then Terry went out in his front yard and committed suicide by gun. Terry was 77.

I had not seen Terry for 36-37 years. I thought of him occasionally because Terry Murphy was “a character”.

It was pure coincidence that I learned of Murphy’s demise. I contacted one of my BFFs – Bob in San Antonio – who I touch base with about once/year. I wish we were closer geographically because Bob IS a BFF.  Our random “cyber catch-ups” are the best we can manage.

So Bob tells me “Terry Murphy died yesterday”. That opened a box in my memory attic that hadn’t received attention in a while. Bob had no details but he was going to Dallas on business and would let me know.

Bob was the catalyst for how I met Terry. Bob also got me appointed as a judge for the 1979 Kansas City Kings (NBA) “Glitter Girls” competition. That’s how I met “Thunder Thighs”, “Born To Glitter”, and “Cleopatra” who was dating Kings’ point guard Phil Ford at the time.  Yes… that Phil Ford.

Judging a pro sports’ team’s cheerleader competition is a “I once did” that can get overlooked when making out “a bucket list”. It’s not “Running with the bulls at Pamplona” but it’s something.

Terry Murphy was not involved in Bob or my lives at that point.  In retrospect he certainly would have fit in.

My world and Terry’s overlapped for about a year or so. We almost sorta went into business together running a replica Old West theme park.  I dodged that bullet, but I am glad for that brief overlap.

When I got the details as noted above, my first thought was why did Terry do it in his front yard? My second thought was OF COURSE Terry Murphy would kill himself in his front yard.

In the suicide “business” doing the act outside is, apparently, a thoughtful consideration of the mess “doing it” creates if one is using a firearm. Blood and brains on the grass versus on the carpet, walls etc….  Did Terry wave to a neighbor and yell “Hey, watch this…”?  We’ll never know.

Terry submitting his own obituary was vintage “Murphy” I knew in Dallas in the early 80s.

Terry Murphy Auto-Obituary – LINK!

I had totally lost touch with Terry over 30+ years. No clue what circumstance led him to suicide. Illness… finances… family… depression from whatever.

Terry Murphy’s life was an endless series of “Hey, let’s _______.” Maybe his dramatic exit from this mortal coil was the ultimate “Hey, lets _____.”

He had been a Dallas mover/shaker business celebrity back in the 80s as publisher of “D” Magazine – THE Fru Fru Lifestyle magazine for Dallas at the apex of the J.R. Ewing Era.

You might recall the 3 On 3 Basketball phenomenon that swept America and Beyond in the late 80s-mid 90s. Terry Murphy started all that. His Streetball Partners were putting on 100s of Hoop-It-Up events around the world (27 countries) at its peak.

Terry Murphy

Terry made a LOT of $$$ when he sold that. $$$ which apparently he subsequently lost with an endless series of less successful “Hey, lets _______.” schemes he never ran out of.

He lived in Spain for a year and had an unrequited desire to write a novel. Of course he did… “living in Spain and wanting to write a novel” was also vintage Murphy.

The occasion of Terry’s death ignited a number of “memories of Terry Murphy” from various celeb-glitteratti in Dallas. Terry would have LOVED that. The 6-8 of those I read on-line where eerily similar to this one.

Some “characters” you encounter you envy and wish you could sorta “be like”. Other “characters” you are very glad you are not. Terry Murphy was both.

My enduring memory of Terry Murphy was a classic line from his ex-wife Linda. I don’t know the circumstances of their split but I can imagine. Linda Murphy was a no-nonsense “ball-buster”.  She held the string to her helium balloon of a husband… until she decided to let it go…

We were in their den… down the street from Dallas Cowboy legend Randy White.   Terry was in one of his frequent overly-caffeinated “Hey, let’s _____” wild idea modes. … I was getting a sandwich standing by Linda and she muttered ….

“I’ll do whatever it takes to take care of my family. If I have to, I can always sell gloves at Dillards.”

Dillards was absorbed by Macys years ago. (Oops, that was Hecht’s that Macy’s took over, not Dillards)…  I never drove by a Dillards without thinking of Linda Murphy behind a counter selling gloves.

I hope in my remaining years I continue to encounter “characters”.

I hope you do too.



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I hate not having met that guy.


One helluva walkoff….

Bob Kennel
Bob Kennel

Interesting column. Even more interesting obit. Maybe you’re not supposed to know too much about what makes “characters” tick. . Maybe Linda should have been more of a character; or one of the grandchildren should have spoken up. We’ll not know, but we do need something more soul satisfying than the auto-obit. . Since I’ve seen that age and also written auto-biogs, Terry’s is such a sad story which didn’t need to be. Sound minds and sound bodies don’t consider suicide as an option. I feel for the rest of his family and friends. Rather not be a dead “character”.… Read more »


Interesting obit.–he painted an interesting picture of his life–by the way, well described by you before I read it–before committing such a lonely, desperate act of what he perceived as his only answer to his situation!


Two thoughts…. Depression (unless it is from knowing that the growth inside you is going to take you out in a HORRIBLE way) does strange things. Having been acquainted with the former mayor of Hickory, NC, he was also a “character”. . Probably MORE outgoing in a “sales and marketing way” than Terry. He was a community leader and had a nice family. He ended it one afternoon alone in the house. As the son of a very fundamentalist mountain minister, he said he had gone to church enough by age 5 for his lifetime, BUT, his various gigs as… Read more »


BobLee, his is one of the most interesting, and entertaining obits I’ve ever read. He had to be a “character”. Thanks for sharing your memories!


Well! That sucks! (to co-opt the language of youth).

Macy’s did not acquire Dillards, BTW. In fact they are taking over space in our local ‘mall’ vacated by Macy’s as the latter crash and burn.

Though tragic to see someone take his own life, his obit was classic. Very few obits bring the person to life like this. When my wife’s uncle passed away at age 93, they ran a picture of him laughing at a party or something. Maybe the best obit picture I ever saw.